March 21, 2013

Learning to delegate

I DON’T SUPPOSE it often occurs to you, but if you’re the skipper of a sailboat or powerboat, you’re actually the chief executive officer of a small corporation.  Now, the position of CEO calls for many talents, among them great tact, the ability to make quick decisions, and the courage to delegate responsibility to people you know to be your lessers.

Dr. Michael Stadler says in The Psychology of Sailing: “In many respects the situation at sea does not differ in principle from the situation in a prison or cloister. Sociologists have described such living conditions as ‘total institutions.’” That means all activities are carried out in the same living space, with the same objective, under one authority.

As the skipper of a boat at sea, you are that authority, you are the CEO—and thus the target of every gripe and resentment. As skipper, the law requires that you accept full responsibility for what happens on your boat, but you shouldn’t keep to yourself all the difficult tasks that require a high degree of skill, such as steering in bad weather, navigation, docking maneuvers, sail changes, and so on.

It’s smarter, for your good and theirs, to teach and delegate. Offer your crew the opportunity to learn and develop their own skills. Give them responsibility in the day-to-day running of the ship. In this way, you’ll instill a sense of team spirit and the satisfying feeling that they’re making valuable contributions to the welfare of the group. And (not coincidentally) it also keeps them too busy to think about mutiny.

One final thought: A wise skipper checks on the crew’s work without their being aware of it, and intervenes only if need be.
Spam invasion
I’M SORRY to say I’ve had to institute word verification in the comments section of this blog.  I don’t get a lot of comments because commenting is already quite difficult. It doesn’t seem like a particularly easy or intuitive operation to carry out; but word verification just adds another unfortunate layer of difficulty and obfuscation.

For some reason, after four or five years of jogging along merrily without problems, this blog has suddenly become inundated with anonymous spam messages, many of them pornographic and none of them helpful to readers.  The idea, usually, is to induce readers to visit their websites.

They are mostly worded very cunningly to get past Blogger’s spam filters, and often full of praise for the high standards of my blog.  I may be flattered but I’m not fooled.

I don’t know why I have been designated as a target.  I don’t allow advertising, and this column attracts only about 18,000 page views a month, a laughable amount if your name is Oprah.

But life is too short to spend valuable beer-drinking time sorting out the wretched spam comments from the genuine articles, so I have taken the drastic step required and placed a check mark in the word verification box on my dashboard.

Today’s Thought
 Authority intoxicates,
And makes mere sots of magistrates;
The fumes of it invade the brain,
And make men giddy, proud, and vain.
— Samuel Butler

Notice on a thermostat in a hotel room in Kobe, Japan:
“You do not have to get yourself hot in this room. Please control yourself.”
(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


Tillerman said...

That's the beauty of sailing a Laser. No pressure to delegate difficult tasks to "people you know to be your lessers."

Word verification is an abomination.

John Vigor said...

Hi Tillerman, Yes word verification is indeed an abomination but it's an effective way to fight the dreaded spammers. You wouldn't want to read some of the stuff they keep sending me.

And yes again, there are advantages to solo sailing. Slocum remarked that he never had any complaints about his cook, and his cook never had any complaints about him.

John V.

The Unlikely Boatbuilder said...

You haven't been designated as a target--they hit every open blog they can find. I used to fret about it, but as long as you use moderation, they never reach the website. I delete them once a week or so. No hurry, really. I'd rather spend a few minutes deleteing spam than force readers to enter CAPTCHA codes.

John Vigor said...

Unlikely Boatbuilder, I'm getting 70 or more spam messages a day, that's nearly 500 a week. I just don't have the patience to read through them all to sort the sheep from the goats.

John V.

Jonathan Powers said...

Don't worry about the captcha, John! I really enjoy your blog, and much rather you having more time to drink beer and write than reading a bunch of spam!